chapter  3
22 Pages

Modern tactics

How do modern armies fight? The preceding chapter has outlined some of the key theoretical aspects of land warfare. The purpose of this chapter, and the one that follows, is to put this theory into the context of the historical development of modern land warfare since 1900. This chapter charts the development of modern tactics; it does this by examining the emergence of tactical concepts surrounding defence in depth and infiltration which form the core of modern tactical land warfare. The hierarchy of the levels of war outlined in the Introduction to this book placed

tactics at the bottom, below the operational level of war; however, this should not be taken to mean that tactics is the least important element in land warfare: this is not the case. Tactics is associated with the conduct of battles; whilst winning battles does not, in itself, guarantee victory in war, overall success is likely to be difficult to achieve if an army cannot outperform its opposition tactically. Tactical methods, however, have evolved over time. The tactics of modern land warfare emerged during the First World War; it was essentially innovation in tactics that restored manoeuvre to conventional combat on land. In terms of the themes outlined in Chapter 1, whereas traditional techniques tended to emphasise more such ideas as centralisation, concentration and conformity, the new approaches to tactics placed a much greater emphasis on such concepts as fire and manoeuvre, decentralisation, dispersal, initiative and, especially, combined arms. This chapter begins by outlining the basic precepts of modern tactics. It then con-

cerns itself with analysing how and why those tactics have evolved, focusing first on tactical methods prior to the First World War, and second, on the evolution that took place during the war itself. As the analysis demonstrates, there is a strong evolutionary element in the development of land warfare as we see it today. In terms of tactics, it was the First World War that acted as a catalyst for the development of the basic

foundations for land warfare ever since; continuity and adaptation have been at the core of modern land warfare.